Sunday, September 23, 2007

More on Gesture and the Brain: The Mind's Big Bang

I watched the second video that Kathy recommended to us.

A quick summary:
According to the video, although modern humans evolved 100,000 years ago, starting about 50,000 years ago there were dramatic changes in the technology and culture of humans that eventually led to our dominance of the planet. The video links the "Mind's Big Bang" to man's tendency towards increasingly complex communication and social interaction strategies. Thus, this period witnessed the birth of art and culture, including primitive beads and cave painting.

One of the examples that the video puts forth is the case of deaf children in Managua, Nicaragua. These children spontaneously came up with a complex series of gestures to communicate with each other. The children also resisted attempts to make them learn ASL.

More details can be found at:

The development is pretty remarkable and it's relevant to our research because it establishes that gesture is not necessarily only a secondary element of communication (after speech), but can take over the entire function of transmitting information among individuals in complex interactions. In turn, this observation reinforces the widespread animation practice of animating poses and body movement first, before moving on to facial expressions, as well the importance of silhouettes. Also, the video talks about "meems" or cultural transmission through imitation, and it appears that the Nicaraguan Sign Language is an example of this phenomenon. Consequently, one would expect that there is a strong culturally-specific aspect to gestures. In support of this notion, there's other cases where similar micro-languages based on gesture have arisen:

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